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Miracle in Melbourne as Murray comes back from the dead to win after five hours

Andy Murray simply won’t go away. And the tennis world is better for it.

Well, Thanasi Kokkinakis might disagree.

Kokkinakis and the Aussie crowd went home disappointed on Thursday night–or more like Friday morning–but everyone involved had to be appreciative of the epic five-setter that capped off second-round action at the 2023 Australian Open. Murray came back from two sets and 5-2 down in the third to outlast Kokkinakis 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 after five hours and 45 minutes.

It was the longest match of Murray’s entire career and the 4:05 am finish was the second-latest in Grand Slam history (the Lleyton Hewitt vs. Marcos Baghdatis match at the 2008 Australian Open holds the record at 4:34 am).

For a while it looked like this would nothing more than a routine win for Kokkinakis. After all, Murray was coming off a five-setter in the opening round against Matteo Berrettini and at 36 years old–metal hip and all–there are understandable questions about his fitness. Kokkinaks ran him ragged for the first two sets and much of the third, as the 26-year-old Aussie put himself within one game of a straight-set victory. But having already broken back once in the third, Murray broke back again in the ninth game to stay alive.

From there it was an even, high-intensity battle the rest of the way. Murray took the third and fourth sets before seizing the crucial fifth-set break at 5-5. Kokkinakis had dug out of a 0-40 hole at 3-3 to hold and he erased a 15-40 deficit in the 11th game, but Murray finally converted his eighth break point of the decider. The three-time major champion and five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park successfully served it out at 6-5, capitalizing on match point with a perfect down-the-line backhand.

“It was unbelievable I managed to turn that around,” Murray said. “Thanasi was serving unbelievably and hitting his forehand huge. I don’t know how I managed to get through it. I did start playing better as the match went on, but yeah, I have a big heart.

“I now am [the active leader for] most wins coming from two sets to love down, so I have done it before. I have experience of it. I just rely on that experience and drive. That fight and love for the game and competing and my respect for this event and the competition and that is why I kept going.”

He kept going in this particular match and–somewhat improbably–in his career as a whole. Because of ongoing hip problems, Murray unofficially retired at the 2019 Aussie Open following a first-round loss to Roberto Bautista Agut (also…you guessed it…a five-setter) but managed to return to the tour following surgery.

Four years later, the Scot is still out here grinding away and competing at the highest level.

Murray’s reward for his latest magical moment in Melbourne is a third-round matchup with none other than Bautista Agut.

Encore, encore!

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.